Bentley Motors found itself in financial trouble at the start of the 1930s. This was due in large part to the depression in the United States and its effect on the rest of the world. Rolls-Royce purchased the trademark and the company assets in 1931. The new Bentley, as manufactured under parent company Rolls-Royce, was revealed to the public at Ascot in August of 1933 with the first deliveries of production cars not beginning until early 1934.
Because of pressure from the sales department, eager to satisfy their client's orders, and the necessity to keep alive the enormous goodwill created, a new model had to be developed quickly. Using the chassis and motor of the existing Rolls-Royce 20/25, the Bentley 3 1/2 Litre was developed. It featured the chassis of the stillborn smaller Rolls-Royce codenamed "Peregrine" along with a more powerful version of the 20/25 six-cylinder engine with a new cross-flow cylinder head and camshaft, twin SU carburettors, twin fuel pumps and single-coil ignition. Mated to a four-speed synchromesh transmission and a hypoid bevel rear axle (the first on a Rolls-Royce production car), the new 3 1/2 Litre Bentley offered performance of over 90 mph with considerable refinement. All told, 1,179 examples would leave the Derby works from 1933 to 1937, and Rolls-Royce would come to call it "The Silent Sports Car".
As with Rolls-Royce cars of the period, there was no such thing as a standard body style, and each and every Bentley built at the Derby factory would have a fully-functioning, rolling chassis (with the restyled and distinctive Bentley radiator in place) before being shipped out to the coachbuilder for a body to be placed upon it. Only a year after introducing the 3 1/2 Litre model, no fewer than fourteen coachbuilders - Arnold, Barker, Cockshoot, Freestone & Webb, Hooper, Mann Egerton, Arthur Mulliner, H.J. Mulliner, Gurney Nutting, Park Ward, Rippon, Thrupp & Maberly, Vanden Plas, and James Young - would all be building their own special bodies on this chassis. Over half the cars were built with Park Ward bodywork. Park Ward offered two types of bodies on the Derby Bentley: the catalogue offerings based on standard designs - Sports Saloon and Drop Head Coupe - which evolved during the years and also varied in many details.
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